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NEXT STORY

Gomułka for First Secretary!

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Gomułka alienates the workers
Jan Józef Lipski Social activist
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I tak pracowałem na wielu bardzo różnych polach, natomiast w którym momencie doszedłem do wniosku, że to się kończy, że ten wspaniały październik ma… długo nie pożyje. Nawet bałem... może byłem bardziej pesymistyczny niż w stosunku do tego, co się potem stało, bo sobie wyobrażałem, że będzie powrót niezupełnie do stalinizmu, tego nie przypuszczałem, ale do czegoś bardziej... zbliżonego. No, na szczęście to tak się nie stało, że tam cały szereg zmian okazał się trwałych. Ale w „Po prostu” zbiorowo doszliśmy w pewnym momencie do wniosku, że nic z tego nie wyniknie, bo Gomułka dosyć wcześnie zaczął wykazywać takie tendencje wskazujące na to, że ten proces nie będzie się pogłębiać, tylko zacznie się cofać; a między innymi był taki niezauważany na ogół moment historyczny, który dla całego zespołu „Po prostu” był takim czymś dosyć przełomowym – była to sprawa tak zwanych roszczeń robotniczych. O tym się prawie nigdy nie mówi i się tego nie wie. Mianowicie, w czasach stalinowskich był ten zwyczaj, że te różne nadgodziny, które ludzie mieli, tego rodzaju różne rzeczy, za które trzeba im było płacić, były porządnie księgowane, natomiast faktycznie niewypłacane. Jednym z postulatów Rad Robotniczych było to, że są to zadłużenia wobec robotników, które powinny być wypłacone i Gomułka był też tego zdania i tylko zostało postanowione, że to trzeba przez sąd przeprowadzić stwierdzenie tej należności. Więc ludzie wynajmowali adwokata, w rezultacie dostawali wyrok w imieniu Polskiej Rzeczpospolitej Ludowej, że im się tam należy, powiedzmy tam czterdzieści tysięcy złotych czy dwadzieścia. To były w owym czasie bardzo duże sumy, ale to przez lata i czasami tam narastały. I nagle z dnia na dzień to zostało przekreślone. Gomułka mianowicie doszedł do wniosku, skądinąd racjonalnego, że te sumy są zbyt wielkie, globalnie... globalnie rzecz biorąc, żeby w tej chwili Skarb Państwa zniósł wypłacenie tego. Zamiast natomiast zrobić tak, jakby chyba należało, żeby zaapelować do robotników, a nastrój był ciągle taki bardzo dobry, że: „Słuchajcie, no sytuacja jest bez wyjścia, musimy coś dla tego kraju zrobić, Wy macie te uprawnienia, my Wam... wypłacimy, to Wam nie przepadnie, ale tymczasem zgódźcie się na to, że tylko w drobnych ratach będzie Wam wypłacane”, no to by to przyjęto; ale Gomułka już był na tym etapie, że już nie chciał z niczym odwoływać się do robotników, nie chciał stanąć przed nimi jako ten, który ich o cokolwiek prosi. To dosyć szybko się niestety stało i po prostu jednym tam ruchem swojego tam długopisu czy pióra wiecznego – nie wiem, czym on tam pisał – to przekreślił. I krótko mówiąc, to był dzień w którym on stracił większości załóg robotniczych zaufanie.

And so I worked in many different fields but the moment came when I reached the conclusion that this was coming to an end, that this wonderful October had… that it wouldn't last much longer, perhaps I anticipated an even more pessimistic outcome than what happened, because I imagined a return if not exactly to Stalinism, I didn't think that would happen, but I imagined something similar. Fortunately, it turned out that the raft of changes weren't permanent. But in Po prostu we all decided that nothing would come of this because quite early on Gomułka began to display tendencies indicating that this process wouldn't go any further but would be reversed, and there was this historic moment, which generally went unnoticed, which marked a breakthrough for the whole Po prostu team. It was about the matter of the workers' demands, it's almost never mentioned and people don't know that during the Stalinist years, there was a custom that all the overtime that people worked, the kind of things that they ought to have been paid for were properly documented but the money was never paid out. One of the points of the Workers' Council was that these were debts owed to the workers which should have been paid out, and Gomułka was of the same opinion, and it was decided that this needed to go through the courts to make a statement about how much was owed. So people hired lawyers and got a ruling in the name of the Polish People's Republic saying that they were entitled to, say, 40,000 or 20,000 złotych, which in those days were huge sums of money and over the years, these amounts grew, and then suddenly, from one day to the next, everything was wiped off. Gomułka came to the rational conclusion that these sums were too large when looked at globally for the National Treasury to be able to pay at that time. Instead of doing what he should have done, namely, appealing to the workers at a time when the atmosphere was still very good, and saying, ‘Listen, there's no way out of this situation, we have to do something for this country, you are entitled to this money, we'll pay you, you won't lose out, but for the time being, we ask you to agree to these payments being made in small installments’, and they would have accepted that. But Gomułka had reached the stage where he didn't want to consult the workers on anything, he didn't want to have to ask them for anything. Unfortunately, this happened quite quickly, and with one stroke of his ballpoint pen or fountain pen – I don't know what he wrote with – he crossed this out. In short, on that day, he lost the trust of the majority of the workforce.

Jan Józef Lipski (1926-1991) was one of Poland's best known political activists. He was also a writer and a literary critic. As a soldier in the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), he fought in the Warsaw Uprising. In 1976, following worker protests, he co-founded the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR). His active opposition to Poland's communist authorities led to his arrest and imprisonment on several occasions. In 1987, he re-established and headed the Polish Socialist Party. Two years later, he was elected to the Polish Senate. He died in 1991 while still in office. For his significant work, Lipski was honoured with the Cross of the Valorous (Krzyż Walecznych), posthumously with the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (1991) and with the highest Polish decoration, the Order of the White Eagle (2006).

Listeners: Marcel Łoziński Jacek Petrycki

Film director Marcel Łoziński was born in Paris in 1940. He graduated from the Film Directing Department of the National School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź in 1971. In 1994, he was nominated for an American Academy Award and a European Film Academy Award for the documentary, 89 mm from Europe. Since 1995, he has been a member of the American Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science awarding Oscars. He lectured at the FEMIS film school and the School of Polish Culture of Warsaw University. He ran documentary film workshops in Marseilles. Marcel Łoziński currently lectures at Andrzej Wajda’s Master School for Film Directors. He also runs the Dragon Forum, a European documentary film workshop.

Cinematographer Jacek Petrycki was born in Poznań, Poland in 1948. He has worked extensively in Poland and throughout the world. His credits include, for Agniezka Holland, Provincial Actors (1979), Europe, Europe (1990), Shot in the Heart (2001) and Julie Walking Home (2002), for Krysztof Kieslowski numerous short films including Camera Buff (1980) and No End (1985). Other credits include Journey to the Sun (1998), directed by Jesim Ustaoglu, which won the Golden Camera 300 award at the International Film Camera Festival, Shooters (2000) and The Valley (1999), both directed by Dan Reed, Unforgiving (1993) and Betrayed (1995) by Clive Gordon both of which won the BAFTA for best factual photography. Jacek Petrycki is also a teacher and a filmmaker.

Tags: Stalinism, Po Prostu, Workers` Council, Polish Peoples' Republic, Władysław Gomułka

Duration: 3 minutes, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1989

Date story went live: 10 March 2011